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Days 358-359 Saturday-Sunday April 12-13, 2008 – Bangkok, Thailand
After settling in for a couple of days, we decided to dive in for a dose of local culture come Saturday morning. It seems that in just about every developing country in the world, outdoor markets are heavily celebrated and integral parts of life. In Bangkok, the largest outdoor market takes place on the weekends. We set out early in the morning to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market which is part market for Thai people and part “show” for tourists.
Since our hotel is conveniently located near the sky train, it took us no time to get to the market which was a twenty minute ride away. To say this market is huge is an understatement. In fact, the market is so large that we found ourselves quite lost on more than one occasion. After a while, we stopped trying to find our way and just began to wander through the maze of stalls. While exploring, we saw everything from tourist trinkets to live animals for sale.
Even though the locals do frequent the Chatuchak market, it is still overpriced for foreigners and we opted not to buy anything but a water gun for Shawn Reece. After walking around for a couple of hours, the heat and crowds started to get to us and we decided to head back to the hotel. This time instead of using the sky train, we took a slightly longer route which used the Bangkok subway. (You know I love my subways!) The subway system was almost abandoned, but the air conditioning on the train was definitely welcomed.
While a few hours at a market might not seem like much to you, when it is in the oppressive heat and humidity of Bangkok it can be quite exhausting. After resting for a couple of hours at the hotel we set back out to see some of the Songkran festivities beginning. The Songkran Festival is the Thai New Year’s celebration and is most famously known for people walking the streets putting white paste on others while shooting them with water guns. (Of course it has a significant religious meaning as well!) Since this was just the first night, things were not as crazy as they would become in subsequent days.
On Sunday morning when we left the hotel, Shawn Reece was ready for any battle that may have come his way. He left with his small water gun filled and ready to go. Little did we know that his first test would come just a minute after we began our walk down the alley from the hotel. Hidden between shops down the road, a father and his two little girls sat with a hose and bucket trying to soak passersby. Shawn Reece just couldn’t settle for this beating, so he fought back. They truly had a blast.
Following his battle, we walked for five minutes to one of the more popular tourist spots in Bangkok. Jim Thompson was an American silk mogul who moved to Thailand and made his home there. He disappeared in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia in 1967 under mysterious circumstances. Even though he died some time ago, the Jim Thompson silk business is still going strong and the company has turned his former house into a museum of sorts.
During the 1960’s Jim Thompson built a house in the center of Bangkok. The house was constructed from parts of seven different traditional houses and sits on the banks of a canal in Bangkok. In addition to being a traditional Thai house, Jim Thompson also filled it with many historic artifacts including a thousand year old statue of Buddha. Once we arrived, after taking a few pictures in the courtyard we were given a thirty minute tour of the house. The house did seem almost like a museum and we did have a good time taking the tour. After it was done, Shawn Reece even managed to get in a water fight with one of the girl’s working there.
After leaving Jim Thompson’s house we took a stroll along the canal next door. It quickly became clear that the city had descended into the chaos of Songkran. By this time it seemed everyone was armed with a water gun and it was impossible to stay dry. For the rest of the afternoon we walked around the area getting sprayed and enjoying ourselves tremendously.
Our plans for Monday were to go to Khao San Road where it is said that the biggest Songkran Festival celebration takes place. Little did we know that it would be beyond anything we have ever seen. All I have to say is that we are so blessed to be here during this incredible time in the city.
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The Coomer Family
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